How to record like a one-man band* in your room/office/basement/garage for almost free

Posted on 27 October 2008

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“Yes, I think we’ve reached a statistically significant level of funk.”

Anyway, the requirements for Mac OS X:

  • Hydrogen, a free piece of drum sequencing software which works well;*
  • Audio Hijack Pro, a beautiful piece of software that will rip straight from CoreAudio sources, so you can sample web page sounds, youtube videos…anything you can play on your computer;
  • Audacity, a free piece of multitrack audio editing software which works well*, or:
    • GarageBand, a “free” piece of multitrack audio editing and drum sequencing software that ships with Mac OS X (so it’s not really free, but whatever);
  • Line level signal of some sort, like from keyboard, from a guitar plugged into a line6 Pod, or from a microphone plugged into a preamp;
  • Adenosine receptors thoroughly bathed in caffeine;
    • …to provide normally inhuman levels of concentration and patience (given the shortcomings of free and open source software, including their predisposition to random crashes and data corruption which will piss you off several times during the recording of one track, guaranteed)

* : “sort of”

Other options:

  • Jack / Ardour, which were giving me strange software conflicts, but may now be updated to a more friendly version…see for yourself;
  • OggDrop X, if you’re weird and like the Ogg codec and license…as I do;

…or just go all the way and wipe your hard drive clean and then install the latest Ubuntu Studio or 64 Studio packaged releases. Alternately, Wingeeks can find lots of similar software here…you poor, poor souls.

Now…for the really cool part. So, you’ve got the software. Hardware is now commoditized to the point that speedy processors, RAM, and storage, are really just ridiculously cheap. The big problem? You’re still just a one-man band.

But, wait! Let’s think about this situation for a second. In theory, anyone can assemble these low-cost systems. That means that you could collaborate with friends/colleagues/kindergarten classmates on a massive musical project for minimal cost, if you could only connect to one another. “Whoa!”, right?

You just start a project in your collective multitrack editor of choice, have each individual add tracks as they see fit and modify others’ tracks per your degree of discretion–and that’s it! The old way to do this was to send CDs/DVDs back and forth via physical mail…but who has time for that? Just upload them to any of the large, low-cost/free file storage services! While this can be painful if you’re using a proprietary free service that is fast to download but slow to upload, consider using what I just discovered: GSpace.

Gspace is a firefox plugin that allows you to use the free ~2 Gb of HD space attached to your account from Gmail (which is physically located somewhere in a data center in California or wherever and is paid for in full by Google) as a file storage medium, instead of just an email attachment storage account. Of course, this whole system breaks down once the files become excessively large, and while there are ways around that, it’s clearly very inconvenient. I do see the limits on file uploads and downloads increasing in the near future as more and more users demand more and more bandwidth. Until then, if you’re recording in 24 bits at 192kHz…stick with the USPS!

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Posted in: Coffee, Home studio, Music